The South Downs National Park is a proposed National Park in the South Downs region of England.
The extent of the proposed National park stretches for 90 miles
, from St Catherine's Hill
in the west to Beachy Head
, near Eastbourne
in East Sussex
in the east. The southern boundary of the proposed park lies a few miles inland along most of its length, excluding the coastal towns and cities of Southampton
, Bognor Regis
, but it would include the towns of Petersfield
. It would include two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
(AONB): East Hampshire
and the Sussex Downs. Unlike any other National Park, it would include an area of chalk downland
. Approximately 39 million people visit the area each year.
History of proposal
Of the 12 areas chosen in the 1947 Hobhouse Report
, the South Downs is the only one yet to become a National Park. A decision was taken in the 1950s that ploughing of the downland
had reduced its potential for recreational use, and AONBs were created instead.
The establishment of a National Park in the South Downs received support from the government in September 1999 and the Countryside Agency made an Order to designating the proposed park in January 2003 which was submitted to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 27 January 2003. Land near Arundel, previously proposed for a bypass was added to the proposed area for the national park in January 2004, after the Secretary of State for Transport decided not to proceed with the bypass.
As a result of objections and representations received on the proposed Order, a public inquiry
was conducted between 10 November 2003
and 23 March 2005
with the aim of recommending to Government whether a National Park should be confirmed and, if so, where its boundaries should be. The results of the inquiry were expected by the end of 2005, but were delayed pending a legal issue arising from a High Court
case challenging part of the Order designating the New Forest National Park
. Following an appeal on the High Court case and new legislation included in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
, the South Downs Inquiry report was published on 31 March 2006, and recommended a reduction in the size of the originally-proposed National Park, including the exclusion of the Western Weald
. The Secretary of State then invited objections and representations on new issues relating to the South Downs National Park. This consultation period ran from Monday 2 July to Monday 13 August 2007. In the light of responses received, the Secretary of State decided that it is appropriate to re-open the 2003/2005 public inquiry.. The inquiry re-opened on 12 February 2008 and ran through March and April.
The Inspector closed this re-opened Inquiry on Friday 4th July after 27 sitting days. The anticipated date for submission of the Inspector's report to DEFRA is for the end of November 2008. The Secretary of State is then likely to issue a decision in January 2009.